It’s midnight, and you’re deciding between an Uber and an Uber Pool to get home. The plain Uber is more money, and it’s worse for the environment. But the shared ride means you’ll be sitting shoulder to shoulder with a (fellow?) drunk who at best smells like Blue Curaçao and at worst pukes it on you.
There has to be a better way, and you’re looking right at it. Designed by the U.K. design studio Layer, Joyn is a conceptual, ride-sharing platform that’s explicitly designed to be shared. The vehicle, which would be autonomous, features eight S-shaped seats, which break the car into two rows that face different ways. The headrests double as privacy screens. And so even though you’re packed into a vehicle with seven strangers, you can still have your own personal space. The app would assign you an empty seat automatically.
“This whole share economy thing is idyllic and, I think, the future,” says Benjamin Hubert, founder and creative director of Layer. “But sitting so close to people that you don’t know in a city . . . when you don’t even talk to your neighbors, the comfort level of doing that would be a difficult trade-off.”
There are plenty of public places where we’re packed in but manage to keep some measure of privacy: railways and airplanes (especially premium-class tickets). Hubert’s team was inspired by business-class seating, adding not just barriers for space but a pocket where you might even work if you wanted, complete with a tray table.
The quality of this idea is self-evident, especially when you compare Joyn to the latest in autonomous vehicle design. Think about Origin from GM. It’s a similarly sized box-on-wheels, built to seat six with an almost opulent seating arrangement built for socializing. Concepts have teased designs like Origin for years, but they assume people will want to socialize or collaborate on work when, in fact, most commuters want to tune the rest of the world out.
In any case, Joyn is just an idea, but everything about it looks perfectly feasible. (The biggest remaining consideration is what the outer shell of the vehicle would be. Would it have four double doors, or a full eight doors so everyone has their own entrance to the vehicle?) Let this be a lesson to GM, Tesla, Uber, Lyft, or any other company considering the autonomous ride-share business: They could do a lot worse than take some notes from Joyn.